Sunny days, sensational racing

A capacity field split into two groups provided tight top-level competition at Historic Sandown

Report by Darren Knight. Pics by Phil Wisewould

The ‘bigs’: Groups Nb over 4.5L and Nc over 2L
Tasmanian Darren Pearce (Camaro) grabbed pole in qualifying with a quick 1.21.6, two seconds clear of Darryl Hansen (WA) in his ’68 Ford Mustang. Former GT3 racer and 2018 Super Ute tester Elliot Barbour screamed his Torana into third, a half second in arrears, with HTCAV President Les Walmlsey’s Charger another half second back in fourth. Four different makes in the first four spots – the stage was set.

Race 1
Pearce leapt out to an early lead with Hansen and Walmsley in hot pursuit. Barbour’s Torana became embroiled in a fierce battle with the legendary John Mann who has found more speed from his ex-Laurie Donaher Camaro. Another on the comeback trail is fellow former Shepparton hell-raiser Tino Leo who was back in his famous orange HQ Monaro after reacquiring the big coupe last year having parted ways with it 17 years ago! Tino and son Dom are still getting the car back to their preferred set up which made the combination one of the absolute front runners in the early days of Group Nc. With great racing right through the field, Sydneysider Bill Attard (Mazda) chased the two battling `64 Mustangs of Andrew Cannon and Bill Trengrove hard while Sandgroper Shane Attwell parked his Pony Car with a split oil line. Pearce cruised to the win, while drama unfolded behind as Hansen slowed dramatically within sight of the flag after a fuel pump packed up. Walmsley pounced to snatch second as Hansen limped home just in front of Barbour with Mann fifth, in front of Tickford Supercar part-owner Rusty French in his typically all-black fastback Mustang.

Race 2
The big blue Falcon of Rod Hotchkin (dubbed “Hot Chicken” by all and sundry – brother Brett is “Chips”) make a great start to grab a few spots off the line which soon became third after the XY zoomed past Hansen on the back straight. Pearce looked set for another win until he slowed with gearbox issues just as the last-lap board came out. Walmsley assumed the lead and Hansen second place, as Pearce struggled to get gears. French had a huge lock up at Dandenong Road as he attacked the wilting Camaro, which disappeared in a plume of smoke with two corners to go. Pearce was now out for meeting with a broken gearbox and ventilated engine. Greg Freeman spun his immaculate Camaro on the oil leaving Clempson nowhere to go but the sand trap, putting to an end his charge from the rear. Walmsley led home Hansen with “Hot Chicken” third from French and Andrew Whiteside (Mustang) who just held out Mann after a great dice.

Race 3
French smoked the tyres at the start of the final as Walmsley shot off into the lead while Hansen regained third from a fast-starting Whiteside. Capri stalwart Laurie Nelson (see last month’s issue) battled with Leo who had battles of his own with a recalcitrant gearbox. The HQ Monaro of David Tessari had a huge stoush with Barbour and French, while Mann retired with gearbox woes as did class returnee Michael Miceli in his brand new Boss 302 Mustang. Cannon and Trengrove had yet another big scrap for Nb class honours until the red flag came out – the Torana of David Landry had lobbed into a sand trap and couldn’t escape. Walmsley greeted the chequer first but copped a time penalty for jumping the start. He had five seconds in hand, but the Safety Car closed the gap demoting him to fourth behind race winner Hansen, Rod Hotchkin and Whiteside, with the Falcon of Darren Smith fifth. Hotchkin discovered post- race his 351’s starter motor had decided to bungy jump off its mounting and spend the whole race dragging along the ground. It is now slightly flat on one side…

The ‘smalls’: Groups Nb under 4.5L and Nc under 2L (plus invited)
Current Club champ David Brown (Datsun 16000 SSS) took pole ahead of Gabriel Digenis (BMW), Rob Burns (Alfa) and Jerry Lenstra (NSW), Ford Escort RS 1600.

Race 1
Brown would not take up his pole position after the battery died on the dummy grid. Jerry Lenstra (Escort) made a fast start but was soon put back to second by the Alfa of Rob Burns who then had the BMW of Gabriel Digenis for very close company as an entertaining battle developed for the lead. JUST CARS scribe and category veteran Chris Ralph (BMW) settled into a solid fourth in his last meeting with his Gulf-liveried 2002, sold a few months ago to a new Victorian owner who will continue to race it. Phil Pearmain (Mk1 Jaguar) found himself immersed in an all-Pommy battle with the two Cortinas of Simon Browning and Johnny Luxmoore. The all English punch-ons continued with the two Minis of Len Read and Ted Brewster locked in a big dice until the latter lobbed his Brick into the sand and stayed there, ensuring plenty of bucket and spade references directed his way post-race. Burns won a close one from Digenis and Lenstra followed by Ralph and the Minis of Richard Hill and Adrian Read.

Race 2
Digenis and Burns again got stuck into it at the front, as did Hill and Adrian Read in another amazing battle for sixth while the magnificent MkII Jag of rookie Brock Green used its lusty straight-six power down the straights to keep out a clutch of Minis harrying the Cat in the corners. Brown was slicing through the field having started at the back and clawed all the way up to third after Lenstra retired with engine issues on the final tour. Burns took another close win from Digenis and Brown followed by Ralph and Hill.

Race 3
Digenis hooked up nicely but Burns slipped into the lead in the final with the Safety Car despatched after Phil Barrow (48-215) stalled on the line. After the green flag came out Luxmoore and Browning mixed it up with Derek McLaughlan in his rockin` and rollin’ `56 Customline. Brown’s pursuit of Digenis in second faltered with the Datto losing ground towards the end and finishing only a second ahead of Ralph in fourth. Burns eased out to a handy lead and made it a clean sweep with Digenis second then Brown, Ralph, Hill and Green. Ralph later celebrated hanging up the helmet (and no doubt a straight car for its new owner…) with a “shoey” in the paddock. Having perhaps started the dubious trend on a Supercar podium a few years ago, Bathurst winner and occasional Historic Tourer racer David Reynolds has a lot to answer for!

It was another great outing for the JUST CARS historic tourers and a meeting with just as much going on off-track as on. No better example of the spirit of the class could be seen than the work done by fellow racers on the `68 Mustang of Chris Stern, who clobbered a tyre barrier in practice. A front guard rushed from East Coast Mustang and a flurry of great work from fellow racers and mates including Nick Cascone and the Hotchkin brothers, Rod and Brett, had Chris back on the track when all had looked lost…